How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Meal on a Low Carb Diet?
Max Carmody, MSc
We all know that on a low carb diet we’re supposed to be reducing our carbs, but exactly how many carbs should we be eating at every meal?
On a 40 carb low carb diet, you should be eating roughly 10g of carbs for lunch, breakfast, and dinner, and 2 snacks with 5 carbs for each snack. This example is taken from the Atkins 40 diet.
How many carbs you eat per meal depends greatly on what kind of diet you’re on. If you’re not on a low carb diet, then you will be eating a lot of carbs per meal, they will be making up the bulk of your daily nutrition. Even within low carb diets though, there is not one set amount of carbs you will be consuming. You could be on an extremely low carb diet, in which you are consuming 20-30 carbs a day, a “regular” low carb diet, in which you are consuming 50 carbs a day, or a moderate low carb diet in which you are consuming 100 carbs. You can go a little bit higher than 100, but if you go too much higher than it’s not really low carb anymore.
According to Livestrong if you are not on a low carb diet, or diabetic, or on any other sort of special diet, on an 1,800 calorie diet, you should be consuming roughly 75 grams of carbs for breakfast, 50-60 for both lunch and dinner, and a little bit more for snacks in between.
25 Carb Diet
Atkins does a 25 carb diet, and since they’re a pretty reputable organization and most people recognize them, I’ll use their 25 carb diet as a point of reference. For the Atkins 20 diet, there are multiple phases, that get less restrictive as you go along. The first phase is the most restrictive. In the first phase, you are only supposed to be consuming 20-25 g of daily net carbs. Net Carbs are a foods total carbs subtracting fiber, because it is more difficult to use fiber for energy.
In Atkins phase 1, you are eating only foundation vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, cheeses, and nuts and seeds. You are not eating berries, cottage cheese, legumes, tomato juice, fruits, starchy vegetables, or whole grains.
For a 25 carb diet roughly resembling Atkins, I would recommend 11 carbs for breakfast, 7 carbs for lunch, and 7 carbs for dinner. All snacks should be 0 carbs. If you do not hit this exact ratio that is fine, this is just a rough recommendation based on livestrong’s daily carb recommendations per meal.
A half cup of oatmeal with no milk or fruits would have about 10 carbs, so that could be breakfast. Of course, you could also have a few eggs for breakfast, which have just over half a gram of carbs each, and then make up some of the extra carbs with berries. Half a cup of blueberries would be about 10 carbs. Plus 2 or 3 eggs, that would make up your 11 carbs.
For lunch and dinner you could focus on things with chicken or steak, some sort of protein, that has 0 carbs, for your main meal. Then for the rest of your meal, you could make it up with low carb vegetables.
40 Carb Diet
A 20-25 carb diet is pretty extreme, but a 40 carb diet affords a bit more leniency. Atkins also has a 40 carb diet plan, which is slightly more lenient. On the diet, as you get closer to your weight loss goals, you start to increase the daily carbs, similar to the Atkins 20. However, one of the main differences is that on the Atkins 40 plan your daily carbs come from any food group that you choose to eat, it is not limited to certain food groups, as long as you don’t eat too much of it.
On the Atkins 40 diet, it is recommended that you get 10g from Breakfast, 10g from Lunch, and 10g from dinner, and 5g from 2 daily snacks. You should be eating 6-8 servings of foundation vegetables for a total of about 15 carbs, 3 servings of protein with 4-6 oz per serving, 3 servings of added fats such as butter and oil, and 3-5 servings of all other food groups.
For this diet, for your daily snack, you could have about 1 oz of macadamia nuts for a snack, as they contain 4 grams of carbs. As mentioned before, you could have oatmeal for breakfast coming in at about 10 carbs. For lunch you could have 1 serving of protein, and for dinner 2 servings of protein. Then you could make up the rest by adding low carb vegetables. As a general rule of thumb, as mentioned in my previous blog post low carb vegetables grow above the ground, and high carb vegetables grow below the ground.
100 Carb Diet
Now for a more moderate carb diet, the 100 carb diet. For consistency and ease of comparison, we will again talk about an Atkins diet, the Atkins 100. As hinted in the name, this diet involves eating 100 carbs a day. We talked about it a lot, in the blog post “Is 100 grams of carbs a day low carb?”.
One of the main points of an Atkins 100 diet, is that you can eat with minimal restriction. However, you do still want to avoid sugar, refined carbs, and trigger foods that cause you to eat too many carbs.
On the Atkins 100 diet, is is recommended that you eat 3 meals a day of 25 grams of carbs each. And 2 snacks a day of 10-15 carbs. You should be eating 6-8 servings of foundation vegetables with 15 carbs, 3 servings of protein with 0 carbs, 2-4 servings of added fats with 0 carbs, and 85 grams of other carbs. You could even eat pasta on this diet if you wanted, 1 cup of cooked pasta has about 40 carbs.
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